Culturebot comes at art and criticism from the world of dance and performance rather than traditional literary dramaturgy, but its editor Andy Horwitz gathers together some more general thoughts about the practice of criticism in “Re-framing the critic for the 21st century: Dramaturgy, advocacy and engagement,” posted there today. It is a very long essay but nuanced and measured; he concludes:
As I noted in the introduction it seems to me that we are at a point in American culture where the loudest, angriest, least-informed voices often win out over thoughtful consideration, moderation and circumspection. I fear that we live in a time when pugnacity wins out over conciliation, aggression over collaboration and short-term greed triumphs over the long-term common good. As someone who values the examined life, who believes in the social contract and the notion that intelligent people can disagree without becoming homicidal, xenophobic partisans, I have dedicated a great deal of my time and energy to the idea that the arts — particularly the performing arts — provide a space to foster reflection, education and communication. I would never suggest that any artist has a moral or political imperative to adhere to any socially-engaged justification for their work. Artists make art for whatever reason calls them forward. But the overall ecology of the arts, the “culture” sector, exists within a larger framework of Culture; it exists as a laboratory and an “auditorium” — [a] place for people to be heard. The cultural sector exists as a place to engage with the ideas that shape our experiences of the world, to try and bridge the almost unfathomable gap between interiorities by making our inner lives manifest in the material world. Making art — visual, theater, dance, music, writing, new media, etc. — is the process of articulating our subjective experience in a way that can be shared with others, it is an attempt to bridge the gap of our existential isolation and come together as individuals and in community. At its best, art creates a matrix for the intentional intersection of subjectivities, particularly when watching performance, in which a third entity consisting of the combined intelligences of audience and performer comes into being and, for a moment, we transcend the limitations of everyday experience. …
In order to fully realize the potential of the arts in our culture, we need people dedicated to building bridges. I imagine that person as a new type of critic, re-framed for the 21st Century: the critic as dramaturge, advocate and engager, the critic as public intellectual. I imagine the new critic as an insightful commentator and expositor, a facilitator of public discourse mediating between artist, audience, institution and academics, working to build a sustainable, responsible, transparent arts ecosystem that will sustain itself — and our culture — into the future.
Set aside an hour or so for the essay, which will repay your attention, especially if you regard yourself as either an amateur or professional (insofar as these modifiers have any meaning anymore) critic and reviewer.